Washington Square West
The evolution of the Gayborhood put this ‘hood in high demand.
Median home price: $299,000
Increase in median price of properties sold (2011 to 2012): 10.7 percent
Increase in residents aged 20 to 54 (2000 to 2010): 15.7 percent
Ten years ago, this neighborhood wouldn’t have made the list. Once the dirtiest stretch in Center City—literally and figuratively—the 13th Street corridor is now Philadelphia’s fine-dining epicenter, boasting can’t-get-a-reservation joints like Barbuzzo and Vetri’s popular 2010 trattoria, Amis. Remember Signatures, the strip club on Locust? Today that’s NEST, a three-story “children’s enrichment center.”
Likewise, “the Gayborhood” has become something of a misnomer. Yes, street signs in the area—a big part of Washington Square West—are splashed with little rainbow banners; gay bar Woody’s is still a stalwart, and several business owners are gay. But as new business attracted new residents—from Jefferson doctors to Rittenhouse émigrés seeking more space—this became much more than “the gay neighborhood.” With increased yuppification (and commerce!) has come increasingly valuable real estate.
Good luck finding a medium-sized condo in one of Wash West’s low-rise apartment buildings (where available property is most prevalent) for under $400,000. (Those seeking cheaper confines are heading a few blocks north to Chinatown’s loft district, where art galleries and roomy condos are giving Old City a run for its money.) But while much of the area’s younger, bohemian crowd has settled there or in South Philly, Wash West remains a good deal funkier than stately Society Hill to its east.
Despite the stroller boom and the excellent George McCall K-8 public school that’s facilitated it, a whiff of Wash West’s bad old days can linger late at night. “It’s not that [the seediness] ever goes away,” observes former Washington Square West Civic Association president Judy Applebaum. “It just changes locations” within the neighborhood. But that’s a mark of character, right?
Wash West: The Beloved Gayborhood
- Wash West is a hit with …everyone from ambitious young professionals to youngish families to hippyish old-timers who got in during the bad old days.
- The food scene … is easily the best in the city: Jamonera, Vedge, Capogiro, Barbuzzo, El Vez … the list goes on.
- Shopping … is perfect for weekend boutique-hopping. Wash West has a virtual monopoly on Center City’s quaint side streets and cozy coffee shops.
- The most prevalent crime is … Transvestite prostitutes regularly hold court at 12th and Lombard after the bars close on weekends, and the dealers sling product at 13th and Locust with impunity.
- Schools … In addition to its good test scores (especially in math), McCall, part of the Philadelphia School District, is both economically and racially diverse, reflecting the breadth of the school’s catchment, which encompasses all of Center City east of Broad Street. Parents from outside the district clamor to transfer their kids into the school.
- Neighborhood gossip … Though available restaurant space is growing scarce, there’s the much-anticipated American brasserie Pennsylvania 6—from the same folks who own City Tap House in West Philly—who managed to squeeze in at 12th and Sansom.
Data derived from HomExpert Market Report, a product of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Research Division.